Rookie Claims a Title, but Justin Thomas Clinches the FedEx Cup

Schauffele said he thought the winning putt was going to lip out. “That’s why I couldn’t even react or celebrate,” he said.

The biggest roar of the day was registered a full two hours before the final putt dropped. It emanated from the 10th green when the points leader Jordan Spieth, who was trying to capture the FedEx Cup championship for the second time in three years, holed his second shot from 93 yards for eagle, putting him at seven under par.

At one point on the back nine, Spieth was projected to win the FedEx Cup title, but he played the final eight holes even, while behind him Thomas and Schauffele each played the same stretch in two-under.


Xander Schauffele, 23, after clinching the Tour Championship title.

Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency

Spieth, who tied for seventh after posting a 67 to finish at seven under, ranked 23rd out of 30 for strokes-gained putting in the final round. “This was the most uncomfortable I’ve been with a putter in my hands maybe in my career,” he said.

After Schauffele’s closing birdie, two players remained on the course. But those two, Paul Casey, the 54-hole leader, and Kevin Kisner, the former University of Georgia standout, were unable to keep up with their younger counterparts. Kisner, 33, carded a 70 and finished tied for third, at 10-under, with a fellow former Bulldog, Russell Henley. Casey, 40, closed with a 73 to finish fifth, at nine-under.

Casey was looking for his first PGA Tour victory in eight years. When he captured that title, at the Houston Open in 2009, 14 of the other 29 players in the field on Sunday, including four of the top five in the final FedEx Cup standings, had not yet turned pro.

One of those players is Thomas, who is six months older than Schauffele and has four more career Tour titles. Schauffele, a San Diego State graduate who won the Greenbrier Classic in July, has recorded 11 top-25 finishes in 28 starts, including a tie for fifth at the United States Open.

Schauffele, the first rookie to win the Tour Championship, described his whirlwind summer as “unreal.” He also could have said “life-changing,” which is how Thomas repeatedly described his own five-victory season, which included his first major title.

If the finish lacked drama, Thomas was not to blame. He played the leading-man role like a stage veteran. With the FedEx Cup title — and the $10 million bonus that comes with it — hanging in the balance, he coolly sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th and followed it with a beautiful approach and a six-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th. Johnny Miller, a two-time major winner who was in the broadcast booth Sunday for NBC, said Saturday that he loved Thomas’s swing, which is as unique as a fingerprint.

“He’s upright on his takeaway, and then that explosiveness he has on the bottom is like Tiger,” Miller said, referring to Tiger Woods, the 79-time Tour winner who won two Tour Championship titles.

With his steely resolve down the stretch, Thomas was reminiscent of Woods at the same age. “The greatness of golf is how well you handle pressure,” Miller said, adding, “Very, very few guys are really good closers.”

Spieth is one. This season, Thomas proved that he is another. And on Sunday Schauffele demonstrated that he may be the next.

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